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Quotes on Critical Thinking

"Brain, n. An apparatus with which we think that we think." ~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

In the Higher Education sphere, one of our main goals is to impart critical thinking skills to students. We try to teach that asking, "How do you know what you think you know?" is much more important than memorizing any particular collection of so-called facts. Questioning our individual versions of reality has never been more important, as there has never been more at stake. So to get those rusty mental gears spinning, here is some well-oiled advice from critical thinkers past and present:

"Believing is easier than thinking. Hence so many more believers than thinkers." ~Bruce Calvert

"Our minds are lazier than our bodies." ~François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims, 1678

"Men can live without air a few minutes, without water for about two weeks, without food for about two months—and without a new thought for years on end." ~Kent Ruth

"Irons rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind." ~Leonardo da Vinci, Notebooks, 1508

"Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in." ~Alan Alda

"People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use."  ~Soren Kierkegaard

"Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." ~John F. Kennedy

"The trouble with most people is that they think with their hopes or fears or wishes rather than with their minds." ~Will Durant

"Ours is the age which is proud of machines that think and suspicious of men who try to." ~Howard Mumford Jones

"[Thinking is] what a great many people think they are doing when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." ~William James

Once again, I am indebted to The Quote Garden for these gems. If I've inspired you to want to learn more about honing your critical thinking skills, I'd like to suggest Unspun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation, by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, founders of, and Don't Believe Everything You Think by Thomas Kida.


Kyle Crider is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America. Email Kyle at